SteadyHand

steadyhand-thumb.gif
  • Editors' rating
    7.2 Very good

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • effectively reduces unwanted camera shake
  • works with zooms and pans.

Cons

  • No preview image for setting target window
  • only works with AVI files
  • no batch process function.

Even with digital or optical image stabilisers, handheld camcorders often suffer from camera shake, creating unwanted and distracting image motion in your footage. The obvious answer is to use a tripod, but there are many situations where this is awkward, if not impossible.

Although non-linear editing systems such as Adobe's Premiere allow a considerable amount of alteration and correction, this is one area where they can't help, unless you can afford a high-end system such as Avid's Xpress DV, which has its own stabilisation plug-in. The alternative is DynaPel's SteadyHand, a standalone application designed specifically to eliminate unwanted movement from your digital footage, as well as smoothing irregular zooms or pans.

SteadyHand's interface is extremely simple. The first step is to select your source file, and then a save location for the finished file. You get a choice of two motion correction modes -- Normal or Strong. These are used to select the correction range required. In Normal mode, an 800ms section of video is used to calculate the motion from one frame to the next and compensate accordingly, in Strong, this is set to 1,600ms. The latter allows for more accurate compensation, but takes much longer to process. An advanced mode lets you set the correction range yourself, as well as specifying different values for horizontal, vertical, rotational and zoom movement. You can also define a target area for compensation here.

SteadyHand uses two core technologies developed by DynaPel; PelKinetics and IsoCam. The first mathematically analyses the motion of each frame compared to subsequent frames in the correction range, while IsoCam helps the software differentiate between camera motion and the movement of objects in the video. Combined, they produce surprisingly effective results, smoothing out unwanted camera shake even when the footage contains moving objects, or zooms, rotations and pans.

It's not a lossless process, and involves a certain degree of image trimming around the borders. But SteadyHand gives you three options as to how to deal with the edges of your output video. The default setting, 'Zoom to fill', enlarges the image to fill the original frame size, while 'Crop borders' will maintain a 1:1 pixel ratio but produces a smaller frame size. Alternatively, you can select 'No edge correction', which will leave black borders or varying sizes around each frame depending on the amount of motion correction applied.

SteadyHand has its limits, though. Excessive motion cannot be compensated for (although this does provide a rather interesting blurry, double-vision effect), and defining a target window in the advanced settings would be made a lot easier with a single frame preview beneath the frame to refer to. Because it performs a massive amount of calculations for each frame, processing speed is closely related to the speed of your PC, so a Pentium III or equivalent is about the minimum we'd suggest. Also, it only works with AVI files, so you'll need to convert other file types before you can process them. However, SteadyHand lets you choose between installed video codecs for the output file.

Top ZDNET Reviews

Considering what it does, SteadyHand is an extremely useful and effective tool to add to your digital video suite, particularly at £48 (inc. VAT). Currently, you can only download it from https://www.softwarehouse.de/cgi-bin/product/P11632/ml=EN, but a CD backup is also available from the same company for around £5.

Top ZDNET Reviews